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Vegetarianism versus veganism
Vegetarians are people who do not eat meat and who may or may not eat other animal products. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, for example, don’t eat meat, but they do consume dairy products and eggs.
Vegans are people who do not eat meat and who also do not eat or use any other animal products. This means that vegans exclude milk, butter and other animal-related foods from their diets. They also steer clear of other items that are made of animal products, such as certain kinds of clothing, makeup and soaps.
Why go vegan?
Going vegan is great for your health. By cutting meat from your diet, you can focus on eating foods that have more nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains.
Switching to a vegan lifestyle is also an environmentally friendly choice. Intensive agriculture is necessary to feed animals in factory farms, which damages land and uses massive amounts of water. The more people who turn to veganism, the less land used to feed animals, which means the less damage done to the environment.
Finally, going vegan is a compassionate decision as it is a protest against the cruel treatment of animals in testing labs, farms and slaughterhouses.
A vegan diet
David Parker and his wife first became vegetarians in the late 1980s; they made the decision to go vegan in 1997.
Other than cutting out all dairy and eggs from his previous lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, Parker says the biggest change he faced when switching from vegetarianism to veganism was probably the most obvious change: simply eating more vegetables.
Parker and his family are all vegans, but his wife and oldest daughter are raw vegans. Along with not eating any animal products, those who follow a raw veganism diet don’t eat anything that is cooked, including vegetables.
To get all of the calcium and protein that they don’t get from dairy products and meat, vegans must eat other foods that are rich in these nutrients. Spinach is high in protein and many other leafy greens are excellent sources of calcium. Nuts and grains are also great sources of fibre and protein – for example, a quarter cup of almonds alone has more than four grams of fibre and almost eight grams of protein. Seitan and tofu are two other meat substitutes that Parker recommends.
Over the years, there has been a change in the restaurant industry as well. More restaurants now offer vegan options and, if they don’t, they’ll usually produce something vegan for you by removing the non-vegan items from a dish, says Parker.
If you’re going to a restaurant that is not 100 per cent vegan, ask your waiter about the meal that you’re considering ordering. Ask them to hold any dairy products, such as milk and cheese, and to replace meats with substitutes, such as tofu or beans.
You may also want to ask about specific ingredients to make sure you’re getting a true vegan dish. For example, is the stock used in a soup a chicken stock or a vegetable stock? Does the hummus have mayonnaise in it? And what kind of grease were the fries cooked in?
A vegan lifestyle
The decision to go vegan goes beyond changing what you eat at the dinner table – it also means watching out for products that have been tested on or made from animals. That means avoiding leather (such as leather belts, shoes and jackets) and wearing clothes made from synthetic materials.
“If you plan to go 100 per cent vegan, you generally have to buy your shoes online,” says Parker. “It’s fairly easy to find shoes made with synthetic material nowadays.”
Opt for winter coats that are made of synthetic properties instead of animal-derived fillers like down, which is made from duck or goose feathers. Vegans also need to watch out for anything made of silk, wool or fur. Soaps also have animal products in them, like glycerine, which is made from animal fats. For vegan cosmetics, look for brands that are not tested on animals and that do not contain any animal by-products such as beeswax or fish scales.